Monday, February 9, 2015

Light from the Source

'TIS GOOD, LORD, TO BE HERE

And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah."  Mt. 17:4

There are so many facets to the Lord's Transfiguration that we could preach many sermons on it.  Each would be beneficial.  Each profitable to our faith.  We could do that, or we could do what we just did instead; we could cover the entire matter by singing a hymn.

Sadly, there is only one Transfiguration hymn in our hymnal, but if you are going to have only one, this is the one to have.  It is a beautiful hymn about a Beautiful Savior, so let us consider it now.

The first thing we should know is that it was penned by Joseph Robinson, an Anglican clergyman, about 125 years ago.  Not all ministers have such gifts but we must thank God for those who do, because God has joined music and theology together in a marriage made in heaven, and what God has joined together let not man put asunder.

The melody is an adaptation of a tune by Johann Sebastian Bach, the world's greatest musician, and a fellow Lutheran as well!

The hymn's title comes from the words of Peter, who was an eyewitness to the event.  At the sight of Jesus, Moses and Elijah now convening on this high mountain he exclaims, "It is good, Lord, to be here."

May we learn to say the same words about the church's sacred gathering we are privileged to attend each Sunday where we, too, enjoy holy communion with the Lord of Glory, with Him who was crucified and raised again so that we might have a permanent share in His glory, so that we, too, might be transfigured from sinners under divine judgment to saints who enjoy the dazzling love of God in Christ.  Yes, it is most assuredly good to be here!

In verses one and two, Fr. Robinson rehearses the facts of the event for us:  the persons present, the Lord's face shining like the sun, His garments glittering white, but he doesn't only give us the facts, he also interprets them for us with the inspired phrase, "unborrowed light."

The composer's message to us is the same one we confess in the Creed, namely, that Jesus is the "Light of Light."  That dazzling light is native to Him, not borrowed or bestowed upon Him from another.  Yes, this Man is God in the flesh.  He is not the Father, or the Holy Spirit.  He is His own person.  He is the eternal Son of God who mercifully, for our sake, assumed human flesh to do for us what only God could do:  redeem the world from death and sin, from sadness and sorrow.  This is what all people long for more than any other thing.

It is true, dear Christians, all people want to be redeemed!  They don't necessarily want Jesus to do it though there is no other saving name under heaven.  They don't want to turn away from darkness.  They want nothing to do with sacrifice, suffering, or the rich and luxurious blood of the cross; and they love to heap supercilious scorn on the Lord's victory over the grave.  Yet, still, all men want to be redeemed.  Every philosophy, technological advance and human institution ever devised proves it, for all of these things have only one purpose:  to overcome the havoc that sin inflicts upon the whole earth, and to make all things new.  The Bible says that "death came into the world by sin."  Please remember that, "death came into the world by sin," because it is a foundational teaching of our faith.  All the misery of the world, the slow death that we die daily, and our final demise are the consequences of our egregious crimes against all that is holy and all that is good.  Truly, we need to be redeemed.

In verse three the author shows us that Jesus is God's anointed redeemer, that the one we call Lord is the realizing of all that God promised throughout the centuries.  He is the one that Moses and Elijah prefigured by all they said and all they did, and as often as we celebrate this Feast it is nothing less than our own deliverance that we see:  The Savior! who is now poised to do what God's people have hoped for, longed for and prayed for from the beginning; the Savior who would shortly thereafter be glorified by the cross that saves us all.

In verse four the author makes Peters of us all.  Once that impetuous saint understood what was happening his first instinct was to take up permanent residence.  He wanted to quit the charmless world, the cruel world, and make this hill his home.  We want the same.  It is our deepest desire.  But thankfully! Rev. Robinson was not named Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer.  He knew that no one can remain there.  He knew that Transfiguration was but a foretaste of the feast to come, but before the feast could commence, our Lord would have to descend the Mount of Transfiguration, and ascend Mount Calvary; the place where He would "become sin for us" so that we might "become the righteousness of God in Him"; the place where He would answer for all of our sins however dark, degrading, seductive or enslaving.  All are cancelled, all are pardoned, all are paid for on Calvary.

The disciples did not descend the mountain alone, or come back to the field of battle by themselves.  Jesus came with them, so the author puts this prayer on our lips, "come with us to the plain"; a prayer that the Lord always answers in the affirmative.  He is with us always, not in fuzzy and formless ways, but by the certain and sure means of His holy word and blessed sacraments.  That is why it is "good to be here," because this is the place we obtain the needed grace, consolation and patience to wage the spiritual warfare required of us each day.  The Lord who sends us and who promises us a share in His divine glory also equips us, shields us and consoles us.  He is with us on the plain.  He will be with us in glory.  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Amen.

~Rev. Dean Kavouras

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